Queensland has announced plans to begin opening Indigenous communities after the State Government and Indigenous leaders agreed on a three-stage plan to ease restrictions in Federal Government-designated biosecurity areas.
The plans announcement on Sunday will enable designated communities to transition from the current federal emergency biosecurity restrictions to state-based arrangements under Chief Health Officer public health directions.
In a statement, Deputy Premier Steven Miles said the roadmap would enable residents from remote and discrete communities to go fishing, grocery shopping and attend appointments while maintaining necessary restrictions to keep communities safe.
“The Queensland Government has listened to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander councils and leadership, particularly with respect to economic recovery and social and emotional wellbeing,” said Mr Miles.
“The three-stage Roadmap is a considered, responsible approach to progressively easing access, in line with the National Cabinet Framework and Queensland’s COVID-19 Roadmap.
“Stage 1 of the Roadmap is effective immediately and enables people, to enter a designated community to self-quarantine within that community under approved arrangements, removing a requirement to quarantine for 14 days before entering.”
According to the statement, Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young will issue public directions to manage ongoing risk and account for different health risk profiles throughout the State.
However, the timeframe and restrictions would likely vary between communities.
“We know our First Nations people are at real risk if COVID-19 made its way into their communities, protecting them was a priority and I want to thank them for the co-operation we’ve experienced through this arduous period,” said Dr Young.
Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Craig Crawford said while the Federal Government’s emergency provisions of the Biosecurity Act will remain in place until 17 September 2020, it will not impact on the transition of Queensland’s remote and discrete communities from the National Biosecurity Declaration.
“The Queensland Government will ask the Federal Government to remove Queensland’s remote communities from the Biosecurity Determination from 12 June 2020 to enable Stage Two state-based arrangements to commence," said Mr Crawford.
“We will continue to work local leaders so that they can make decisions for their communities’ safety and well-being.”
STAGE 1: People entering or re-entering a community will have to self-quarantine where safe to do so. However, quarantine exemptions will remain in place for essential workers, those travelling through communities without stopping and those granted an exemption by the Chair of the Local Disaster Management Group in the designated area.
STAGE 2: Chief Health Officer will publish a direction that enables communities to become part of ’safe travel zones’ residents can easily travel within based on public health advice.
STAGE 3: Quarantine restrictions for entry into remote communities Indigenous communities will be removed, with the Burke and Cook Shires to be subject to the same provisions as other areas of Queensland under the Roadmap to Easing Restrictions.
Dr Young will write to the Federal government this week with Queensland’s plans to assume responsibility for easing of rules and regulations aimed at keeping COVID-19 out of these communities.